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Dade City is only municipality in Pasco to increase tax base

DADE CITY — Tom Wolff slogged through zoning delays and cost overruns to finally finish construction on the first building of Dade City Square, a red brick commercial complex at Seventh Street and Howard Avenue. He even borrowed against his home to help pay for the project, which ultimately cost him $700,000.

Then came the tax notice: The property's assessed value skyrocketed from $83,100 to $361,451. Wolff will see his tax bill more than quadruple to $8,500 to various agencies.

"To put it in perspective, my twin brother invested the same amount in an annuity," said Wolff, a disability claims consultant. "And he's earning $6,000 a month. With this tax increase I'm barely breaking even."

Wolff's pain is Dade City's gain, though. He's one of the larger contributors to the $10 million boost in the tax base in Dade City — the only Pasco community to see a swelling in taxable values.

St. Leo led the rest of the pack. Its tax base lost just $66,000 in value. New Port Richey took the hardest hit with a drop of $40 million — a 6.8 percent plummet.

Countywide, the $20 billion tax base fell about $400 million — about 2 percent. That decrease wasn't as bad as the 5 percent dropoff county officials initially feared.

At a budget workshop this month, Dade City commissioners learned their growing base would allow them to keep the same tax rate and still collect an additional $71,000 in property tax revenue.

"I'm proud that we are the only municipality in the county who saw an increase," commissioner Curtis Bebee told the Times. "We're fortunate that our vibrant downtown supports our tax base. We are holding the line on millage rates at a time when our expenses are going up."

Beebe and his colleagues can start by thanking the new owners of the Royal Oak Nursing Center. For years the nonprofit nursing home enjoyed tax-free status. Then last year, the for-profit National Health Investors Inc. bought it and five other Florida facilities in a $67 million package.

Now the Dade City facility, appraised at $2.14 million, is on the tax rolls. It will pay nearly $50,000 in taxes to various local agencies, including $15,000 to Dade City.

"We've known that this tax bill was coming," said Eric Bell, spokesman for Health Services Management, which is leasing the nursing home from the new owners. "And we've properly prepared for it financially."

Other top contributors to the boost include:

• Dade City Business Center, which rose in value from $3.8 million to $4.3 million as its tenants generated more income.

• Agri-Source Bio Diesel, a business center tenant with a growing inventory that increased its assessment from $297,000 to $888,000.

• The Big Lots shopping center on U.S. 301, which saw a $400,000 increase in value due to more tenants moving in.

• Walmart, with the value of improved fixtures rising from $223,000 to $1.8 million.

• Winn-Dixie, with store improvements adding $1 million in value.

• First time filers Med-One Leasing, which reported assets worth $996,000, and Equipment Leasing Telephone, with assets worth $400,000.

Voters approved an initiative in 2008 that lowered the tangible property taxes for many businesses. Tangible property includes a business' inventory and site improvements.

"These new additions absorbed declines," Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells said. "At the same time downtown (Dade City) interests have held their own or increased slightly."

Wells thinks that Pasco County taxable values will begin to rise and he credits the Dade City Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Dade City Main Street, and the City Commission for good returns on their investments.

"We're not back to 2005-06, but business is turning around," Wells said. "One of the measures I use develops from interaction with Rotary, Sertoma and many other diverse organizations. I pay close attention when I routinely ask 'How's business?'"

Wolff's answer to that question would be mixed.

He has rented the four units in Dade City Square to a beauty salon, two clothing stores and an insurance agency. But with all of the money he put out to finish the first building, Wolff said he has abandoned plans for three other buildings on the property.

In fact, he said, it may be a while before he can afford to install a sign at the entrance.

Times staff writer Lee Logan and correspondents Lisa A. Davis and Robert Napper contributed to this report.

Dade City is only municipality in Pasco to increase tax base 08/24/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:59pm]
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